I’ve been thinking a lot lately about being alone: the difference between actually being alone and feeling that way. .
My daughters live in two different states. I work as a solopreneur/soulpreneur, exclusively from home. I am single. There are moments in which the independence and isolation get the best of me, when I truly acknowledge how much time I spend with just me. And in such places, and sometimes, I feel sad.
It hardly takes being alone to feel alone.
I felt alone for long seasons in my marriage, in so many aspects of single-parenting, when working in corporate jobs, even pre-Covid in social contexts, gatherings, and groups.
When I do feel this way, there are two things I have learned to do:
- Tell myself the truth.
- Remember that I am never truly alone.
I am good about pushing hard(er) feelings down, marching forward, staying focused on to-do’s, keeping a positive attitude, persevering. In so many ways, I’m grateful that this is the case. And…there’s a dark side. It is very easy for me to not give myself the permission or space to actually feel. It’s WAY easier to just keep busy, to keep all the plates spinning, to distract myself with pretty much everything else so that I don’t have to feel much of anything. Because, let’s be honest: to feel is hard!
It took me a long time (years and years and years) to learn that my whole world would not fall if I let myself feel. But sometimes I still forget. Until I don’t. Until I feel the lump in my throat that will not subside and the tears that threaten to spill. Until I let go. Until I sit with all the uncomfortableness — all that feels unsettled and unknown and confusing. Until I can finally release and rest in all that just is — without needing to fix it or patch it up or make it better. It’s hard. And it’s generous. It’s grace, really.
There’s a second reason I sometimes feel alone — and why most of us do as women: we’ve been disconnected from the women upon whose shoulders we stand. Maybe disconnected is the wrong word. Maybe more accurate is that we’ve never been connected to them in the first place. That breaks my heart (and infuriates me).
I am reminded of a passage in Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book, Women Who Run With the Wolves:
I once dreamt I was telling stories and felt someone patting my foot in encouragement. I looked down and saw that I was standing on the shoulders of an old woman who was steadying my ankles and smiling up at me.
I said to her, ‘No, no, come stand on my shoulders for you are old and I am young.’
‘No, no,’ she insisted, ‘this is the way it is supposed to be.’
I saw that she stood on the shoulders of a woman far older than she, who stood on the shoulders of a woman even older, who stood on the shoulders of a woman in robes, who stood on the shoulders of another soul, who stood on the shoulders . . .
The absence of this awareness, this truth, this endless and accompanying presence, is but one of the insipid and invisible impacts of patriarchy: keeping us isolated and alone, keeping us disconnected from ourselves, keeping us from acknowledging and allowing our own actual emotions, keeping us from connection with and appreciation of, even reliance on each other.
Sisterhood is important because we are all we have to stand on. We have to stand near and by each other, pray for one another, and share the joys and the difficulties that women face in the world today. If we don’t talk about it among ourselves, then we are made silent by the patriarchy, and that serves us no purpose. ~ Ntozake Shange
Because I’m not willing to be made silent (or made to feel isolated or overly emotional or too much or not enough), I intentionally and gratefully reconnect myself to the stories and the women who remind me of what is MOST true: that I am not alone.
But far beyond just me, I believe, deep in my bones, that these stories and women are for you: when you feel isolated or overly emotional or too much or not enough; when you long for wisdom and guidance and direction and focus; when you need permission to let yourself feel; when you desperately need to be reminded that you are part of a bigger, larger, and longer story that is powerful and amazing and proud; and yes, especially when/if you feel alone. Because you aren’t. Ever. Not really.
These are my endless and fervent hopes on your behalf:
- Tell yourself the truth about how you feel (especially when “alone” is the word you’d use to describe such); believe that you are worthy of the deepest and most honest emotions — always.
- Remember and believe that you are not alone. Because you aren’t. Ever. Not really.
Easier said than done, I know; but no less valuable, significant, or true.
It is my privilege to remind you of just how powerful (and allowed) your every emotion is AND that you’re not alone. These truths and more are what I write about in my free Monday Letters. Subscribe. And these ARE the conversations that matter, that I hold and offer in my one-on-work with women. Learn more.